Patriot Campers’ LC79 6x6 review

THERE’S no denying Justin Montesalvo and his team at Patriot Campers continue to raise the bar, not only with their trailers but also with their Super Tourer 4x4 builds.

Vote for the Patriot Campers' 6x6 LC79 to win the 2017 Custom 4x4 of the Year

The company is little more than four years old and has built a long list of happy camper customers here in Australia, and now it’s taking that service and quality to international markets, with exports to the USA and elsewhere around the globe.

The Super Tourers are top-shelf builds of current model Land Cruisers, and they’ve found their way to customers in the Middle East, Mongolia and back home in Australia. Justin’s own ‘Black Truck’ LC79 is currently on tour in the USA, where it’s getting plenty of attention in a market that doesn’t get 70 Series Toyotas, and it will be at the SEMA Show.

Patriot Campers LC79 6x6  exterior.jpgWhen we heard the Patriot team was preparing something special for the Melbourne 4x4 Show back in August, we wondered what they might come up with to top anything they have shown to date. From the time photos of the build first started leaking online, and then pictures of it on the road heading to Melbourne, it was obvious Justin had delivered on his promise for something special.

The custom Land Cruiser 79 stole the show, with thousands of onlookers crowding around it over the weekend. Patriot worked with some of the leading businesses in the Australian 4x4 industry to create a 70 Series like no one had seen before – and, just one week later, we were thrown the keys to it.

THE BUILD

PATRIOT started the build with a brand-new 2017 Land Cruiser 79 GXL. When the car rolled off the truck in Melbourne it had less than 100km on the clock, and when we met the guys for our drive it had done just 400 kays.

The rear of the Toyota ute was stripped and the back-end of it effectively cut off. This allowed the complete Jmacx 6x6 system to be installed in place of the factory rear axle and leaf springs.

The Jmacx set-up replaced the back part of the chassis with new rails mounting the coil spring suspension and trailing arms; however, the Patriot truck uses adjustable airbags in lieu of the coils, with prototype TJM remote reservoir shocks.

The airbags were supplied by Airbag Man and are height-adjustable up to 100mm to allow easier access to the cab at their lowest and provide better off-road clearance when cranked up. Plus, the system is self-levelling when driving. Both of the rear diff housings are made by Jmacx; the rear-most one retains the factory Toyota locking diff, and the first one is fitted with a Detroit soft locker.

37-inch Mickey Thompson MTZsThe Jmacx 6x6 set-up is designed and engineered to work with up to 35-inch tyres, but, as usual, Justin took it to the next level and fitted 37-inch Mickey Thompson MTZs. This simply required tweaking the adjustable links that are part of the Jmacx set-up. However, even a 6x6 79 on 37s wasn’t enough for Justin.

No, he had to go further and worked with Marks 4WD to fit a set of its portal hubs to each of the axles. The portals not only add an extra 150mm of clearance under the diffs, but the gear reduction in them helps to compensate for the power losses associated with fitting larger diameter tyres, which is especially needed when running on 35s (or in this case, 37s).

Pushing all that weight and rubber requires extra power, and there’s no doubt GSL Fabrications is the king of tuning single-turbo 1VD engines. Patriot has used GSL upgrades for a few of its Super Tourer builds, including for its own cars, and Justin had no hesitation in turning to them again.

Patriot Campers LC79 6x6  underbody.jpg“We got the boys at GSL to go to town on it,” Justin said. “I gave them free reign over the truck as I’ve got a lot of faith in them now after what they’ve proven with my black truck. By the time this is finished and tuned, we’re going to be looking at around 500 flywheel horsepower!”

The 6x6 features GSL’s 100% kit which signifies a 100 per cent increase in torque over standard, but, like everything on this car, the engine has been cranked up to 11. From the TJM intake snorkel through to the insane five-inch stainless steel exhaust stacks, this engine is one heavy breather.

Backing up the engine is an NPC clutch made to handle all of that extra grunt and – probably the only factory component on the car that has been left untouched – the Toyota five-speed gearbox.

Patriot Campers LC79 6x6 engine.jpgThere isn’t much the Patriot team haven’t messed with on the truck: the cab was painted a custom grey colour with contrasting bonnet; the tray is a new design for Patriot and one that will feature on all future Super Tourers; the interior is more like a luxury European car than a farm truck; and even the front bar was custom-made by TJM to match the wider wheel track.

It’s a tour de force of custom components from some of the best names in the local 4x4 industry, and it’s one that will showcase to the world the work of not only Patriot but the contributing businesses.

Via its massive social media following and television series, Patriot already has the attention of the global off-road market. The team wowed fans with the black truck and now the Mega 6x6 is set to blow them away.

THE DRIVE

EVEN when you’re the editor of a national 4x4 magazine, it’s not every day that someone throws you the keys to a vehicle with a $450,000 replacement cost – certainly not one that has been custom-built with hundreds of man hours going into it, has only 500km on the clock, and not even its owner has driven it off-road yet.

I’ve heard it said before that Justin Montesalvo is a mad man, and I was convinced of it once he agreed to let me drive his rig.

It was with much trepidation that I drove the Mega 6x6 out of the spot where we had been shooting our initial images, but I needn’t have felt that way. Aside from the huge step up into the cabin, the leather-lavished interior and the gorgeous sounding rumble from the exhaust stacks, driving the 6x6 on road is just like any other LC79.

Patriot Campers LC79 6x6 stunts.jpgObviously, there’s a bit more poke available from the GSL-tweaked engine when you squeeze the throttle down, and it was yet to be tuned to its full potential when we drove it, but it rumbles along like many other kitted Cruisers.

The airbag suspension is very firm and could be softened up for my liking, but it certainly rides nice at 80 to 100km/h on rough roads. Plus, there’s no feeling of the second rear axle scrubbing the tyres on tight turns on sealed roads as you might expect.

The size of the thing only comes to the fore when you get it off-road and the tracks feel super tight – with the Marks portal axles and +35 offset ROH wheels, the 6x6 is 150mm wider than your garden variety LC79. Justin also mentioned the amount of work that went into fabricating the custom wheel-arch flares, so there was no way I wanted to scrub them against a tree or bank.

Patriot Campers LC79 6x6  4WD tracks.jpgI again questioned Justin’s sanity when we stood at the bottom of a deeply rutted climb and I asked him if he’d rather drive his car up there himself. “Nah mate, you’re here to drive it so better you break it than me.”

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The first pinch was a fairly straightforward rocky climb with a step as it veered left. I wanted to see what sort of traction the six-wheel drive gave, so I only switched in the rear locker which would work with the soft locker in the other rear axle.

The Cruiser crawled up the first part with ease, but as the track turned and the left front went up the step – lifting a wheel on the second axle and the outside front – it scrabbled for grip and forward momentum. The safe option was to ease back and put the front locker in, and it breezed on up.

Patriot Campers LC79 6x6  headlights.jpgThe next obstacle was a deep, rutted gorge barely wide enough to pilot the Cruiser up, and again I was conscious of keeping those fender flares off the walls. With front and rear lockers in, the Patriot Cruiser never wanted for traction; but, taking a cautious line soon had the front left wheel hoiking high as the rig leant in toward the bank.

The safest way forward was to run the synth line out from the TJM Torq 12,000lb front winch (there’s another one mounted at the back) to pull the car across to the left as it edged further up. Tight passes between trees were the only other difficulties for the big 6x6, while power and traction were never in doubt.

This is one seriously capable truck, but its size dictates that it’s better suited to open country rather than tight bush tracks. It would be a weapon in the desert or up on The Cape, and we’re sure we’ll see more on that when it appears on the Patriot Games TV series.

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